KIA Tigers pitcher Lee Yi-ri pitched a gem of a game to wipe the slate clean from the Hangzhou Asian Games squad. The pitch count issue that was cited as the reason for his withdrawal was not a factor in his performance. Instead, Lee was in great form, throwing less than 80 pitches and achieving a Quality Start Plus.
On September 27, Lee started the second game of a doubleheader against the Changwon NC Dinos and pitched seven innings of three-hit ball, striking out three and walking one in the team’s 6-1 win.
Lee suffered a shocking Asian Games roster change last week. On September 22, the Korea Baseball Softball Association (KBSA) Performance Enhancement Committee and the KBO Power Enhancement Committee announced, “We have decided to replace a member of the baseball team for the Hangzhou Asian Games. The player is KIA pitcher Lee Yi-ri, who is recovering from a finger injury and is not expected to perform at his best during the tournament.”
Lee was briefly sidelined by a blistered finger in his September 9 start against the Gwangju LG Twins. After recovering, Lee pitched 1.1 innings against the Daejeon Hanwha Eagles on Sept. 21, allowing five runs (four earned) on two hits with two walks and three strikeouts.
KBO Commissioner Cho Kye-hyun and Asian Games head coach Ryu Jung-il were on hand to watch Lee’s start. After Lee’s poor performance in his last league start before his Asian Games call-up, the decision was made to replace him the next day.
“Lotte outfielder Yoon Dong-hee has been confirmed as the replacement for KIA’s Lee Yi-ri, who has been withdrawn from the Hangzhou Asian Games baseball team,” the KBSA Performance Enhancement Committee and the KBO Power Enhancement Committee announced on the afternoon of the 22nd.
The KIA team said there was nothing wrong with Lee’s finger. On the day of the announcement, Lee received a “clean bill of health” on a blister on his finger.
Ryu Jung-il, the head coach at the center of the controversy, commented on the decision to replace Lee on the day of the national team call-up, saying, “Personally, I feel sorry for Lee’s replacement. Lee Yi-ri was the main left-handed pitcher who needed to take the starting role in important games. I saw him get a blister on his finger a couple days ago. The national team trainer kept checking his condition. I also watched Lee start the game against Daejeon on the 21st.”
“It depends on your point of view, but when I saw the state of the blister while throwing, and the state of the blister after he couldn’t throw two innings that day, I wondered if he could throw more than 70-80 pitches as a starting pitcher with this condition. In the end, I decided to replace him because I thought he couldn’t throw more than 80 pitches as a starting pitcher,” Liu explained.
As Ryu said, all eyes were on Lee to see if he would be able to throw more than 80 pitches in his next league start. On September 27, Lee took the mound for the second game of the doubleheader and threw a total of 77 pitches. While he didn’t reach the full 80 pitches that Ryu was hoping for, he still pitched efficiently, achieving a quality start plus with just 77 pitches.캡틴토토
Lee committed to the national team for both the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and the 2023 WBC. She was well deserving of a spot on the Asian Games team. When we met at Jamsil Stadium on the day of the final roster announcement, Lee took the field with a big smile on his face. However, that smile would quickly turn into a bitter memory a day before the call-up.
The Asian Games baseball team will depart for Hangzhou on September 28 via Incheon International Airport. The decision to replace Lee was made all the more disappointing by the fact that he pitched so well that he could have traveled to Incheon Airport tomorrow and joined the team in time.